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Long Walks, Roaring Holes And Albatrosses On Our Anniversary.

Exploring Oahu is not easy without a car, so after we finished our two week inter-island quarantine, we rented an auto and set out to explore several parts of this island. We are having some sail work done and will remain in Kaneohe until that is completed, so Kaneohe is our base of exploration for now.

DSC07577View from the original road between the leeward and windward sides of Oahu ~ and a stop on the Shaka Tour. 

Laura Morrelli told us about a self guided tour app called “Shaka Guide Oahu” which we downloaded and used to explore a bit of the island. In addition, we have driven the shores and checked out a few locations that might be nice to anchor in for a few nights once our sails are back on board.

One morning we set out for Ka’ena Point Reserve. Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance told us it was a great walk and that they saw some baby albatrosses there, so we decided to drive over and check it out. (Albatrosses are at the end of this post.)

P6160375Looking back toward our starting point at that white sand beach in the distance.

We chose to walk from the state park on the south side of Ka’ena Point, but due to COVID-19, the parking lot was closed which added an extra mile each way to our walk. The eight mile round trip hike was flat and hugged the coast line so there was plenty to see as we strolled along.

At one point Frank and I were startled to hear a growl coming from the rocks and we looked sharply thinking there was a monk seal nearby. But actually the noise was from a blow hole we nicknamed “Old Growler.”

Old Growler spraying mist.

Old Growler actually turned out to be two blow holes and Frank was almost sprayed while taking the second video.

Old Growler spitting at Frank

Ka’ena Point Reserve was established in 1983 to protect the natural dune ecosystem. This is one of the last unspoiled dune ecosystems in the main Hawaiian Islands and allows visitors to see what natural dune habitats found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands look like.  In 2011, a large fence, enclosing 49 acres, was installed to prevent vehicular traffic and to keep predators like mongooses, rats, cats and dogs, out of the area. Within the Reserve are monk seals, Laysan Albatrosses and other birds and plants unique to Hawaii.

Monk seals are the only marine mammal that reside only within US Territorial waters and the majority of these endangered seals live in the remote northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

MonkSeal_1000Image from Hawaiian Ocean Project

We were lucky enough to see two monk seals; one at the beach at the start of our walk and the other on the rocks at the point. Both were sleeping in the sun and the only movement I saw was a very occasional flipper flick. Visitors are required to keep a distance of 150 feet so I couldn’t get a decent photo.

We also saw some unique plants:

P6160410The aptly name Starfish Cactus in bloom.

P6160405“Sedeveria” or “Green Rose” grew with abandon throughout the Reserve.

Our friends from the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally know that Frank and I love to stumble upon bubbly pools and when we do, we climb or trek energetically just to submerge ourselves in those waters.

There were several bubbly pool candidates as we walked to the Reserve and on our way back we just had to stop at the one we deemed “the best!”

P6160412Perfectly clear water inviting us to cool off.

We had to scramble down some rocks to get to this little pool, but the volcanic rock was rough and not slippery which was helpful. We lounged in the water, which was the perfect temperature, and Frank took pictures of plants and fish under the water.

P6160427 Four little fishies in this picture.

Pretty quickly the waves grew as the tide came up, and this pool could clearly become rough and dangerous. We had to abandon our bubbly pool when the waves began crashing over the rocks, but it sure was fun and refreshing.

P6160422You can see the wave hitting the rocks behind us!

After our hike, we drove to Ko Olina Marina where our friends Dan and Susan of s/v Kini Pōpō and Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance were meeting us to share dinner and celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. Of course we stopped for a couple of bottles of bubbly to mark the occasion. It was really great to celebrate our anniversary with an excellent walk and time with special friends! Thank you Moondance for hosting and Kini Pōpō for staying awake after your overnight sail from Maui!

AND NOW, on to the Albatross…..

“At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.

It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!”

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798)

Who remembers reading this poem in high school? The Rime is about an old mariner who relates his experiences to a man he happens to stop while walking along a road. I remembered little about this poem except that the sailor had to hang an albatross around his neck.

The albatross was considered an omen of good luck to sailors because it usually indicated the wind was coming up and the sails would soon be filled again. Plus birds were thought to be able to move between the spiritual world and the earthly realm so they were considered supernatural and natural.  We could discuss this poem for hours, but it is through the Rime that the albatross became a more complex symbol because Coleridge related the bird to christianity and redemption.

Laysan

Photo courtesy of All About Birds.

Anyway!  Ka’ena Point Reserve is one of the few places where Laysan Albatrosses nest and we wanted to see these mythical birds. We saw many fledglings who still had their downy feathers and were not quite ready to fly away. In the distance we saw one grown bird feeding a fledgling. Parents feed their young a thick, concentrated oil extracted from their prey and regurgitate it into the mouth of the fledgling.

P6160391Still a lot of downy feathers on this fledgling.

Surprisingly, the birds were sitting in open areas on the sand, not well hidden and very vulnerable. As gusts of wind came through we watched a few fledglings stand and spread their winds, seemly to get a feeling for just how those wings were supposed to work. One or two took tiny hops with wings spread wide, but they quickly dropped back to a laying position as if a tad bit frightened by the test hop.

Seeing how the albatross was historically important for sailors, I thought I would share a few fun facts about them.

  1. The Great Albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird. The wings can span to over 11 feet!
  2. Albatrosses live long lives. The oldest known is a female, Laysan Albatross named “Wisdom” who is at least 66 years old!
  3. Albatrosses can fly up to 600 miles without flapping their wings!
  4. These birds can dance! Take a look at the first 15 seconds of this YouTube video and witness the Laysan Albatrosses courting through dance.
  5. Albatross take up to two years in the courting process and then they mate for life.
  6. Depending on the species, Albatrosses fledglings take between 3 and 10 months to fly and once they take off, they “leave land behind for 5 to 10 years until they reach sexual maturity.”
  7. Parents feed the fledglings until they fly and are so tired at the end that they often wait another two years before reproducing again.
  8. There are 22 species in the Albatross family.
  9. Albatrosses eat mostly squid and schooling fish.
  10. Although considered a good omen by sailors, in literature, the albatross is often used metaphorically to represent a psychological curse or burden.

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Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife.

This picture was taken at Midway Atoll, HI.  You have to admit that the Laysan Albatross in this pic has really pretty markings.

So there you have it, a few fun facts about Albatrosses. Now I need to go dig out The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and see if I enjoy reading it now for pleasure more than I did as homework in high school.

Anybody want to join me?

Thanks for joining us and reading our blog. If you want to hear from us more often, visit our Facebook page. Stay well and be kind.

 

 

 

2019 Baja HaHa Rally ~ The Long, Stormy Conclusion

We departed Turtle Cove early in the morning for our sail to Bahia Santa Maria, a journey of slightly more than 220 nautical miles.  At the beginning of this leg we jibed several times because the wind was directly behind us, but a few hours into the sail, the wind shifted and we were able to take a tack about 15 degrees off of our rhumb line and slightly out to sea.  The result was a very comfortable and pretty quick run down to Bahia Santa Maria. 

Ravenswings/v Ravenswing flying her kite.

Three boats arrived in Santa Maria before TTR: a J122 named Day Dream, s/v Ravenswing which is a Farrier 36’ trimaran and s/v Kalewa, a 50’ custom catamaran that is light and built for racing. Kalewa was the fastest boat in the HaHa fleet and owners Kevin and Katie are as much fun is Kalewa was fast.

As soon as we dropped anchor, we hailed the crew on s/v Day Dream and invited them over for celebratory cocktails.  Day Dream had four gents aboard and no dinghy, so Frank picked them up in Day Tripper and brought them over.  Needless to say, the guys were very happy to see iced drinks because, though they were comfortable and fast on Day Dream, some of the luxuries aboard TTR were not available on their boat.

Several boats from the HaHa fleet spoke of a storm that brought rain and reports of wind up to 37 knots but none of the early boats, including TTR, saw any of that rain or wind.

Bahia Santa MariaThe HaHa Fleet anchored under a full moon in Bahia Santa Maria.

According to Charlie’s Charts, Bahia Santa Maria is four miles wide and 11 miles long, and this small anchorage offered us a range of fun activities.  Mindy, Ron, Frank and I spent a quiet morning exploring the sand dunes a few miles from where we were anchored. 

Bahia Santa MariaSand strewn with shells and dollars.

The shore is fine sand littered with sand dollars beyond which are mounds of wind swept dunes.

Santa Maria-2Quatro amigos.

The four of us spent a couple of hours looking at little creatures in the sand and climbing the sand dunes. 

Santa MariaFrank was a spec on a distant sand dune.

Santa Maria-1I like the sharp sand edges created by the wind.

Landing and launching the dinghy can be challenging in Santa Maria and on our way off the beach we managed to take a decent wave over the front of Day Tripper.  No injuries or problems occurred, but we did take on an unexpected guest. 

Santa Maria-3This little black bird was swept into our dinghy with the waves ~ notice his duck-like feet!

We gently captured “Nevermore” from the water sloshing in the dinghy and gave him time to dry out as we motored back toward TTR.  By the time we were ready to vacate the dinghy, Nevermore was also ready and he flew off to rejoin his friends.

One of the very first songs played at the Beach Party!

The HaHa Rock n Roll Beach Party at Santa Maria included plenty of food, beverages and live music.  It was fun to mix and mingle, dance in the sand and hang out on shore with the other boaters.

PB120091As usual, Mindy is having a terrible time.

Santa Maria-4HaHa-ers finding shade on the stoop of a local’s home.

Santa Maria has a long, shallow sandy bottom that becomes visible at low tide. In the two pictures below, the tide is already low and you can see how much of the sand is revealed as the tide continued to go out.

Bahia Santa Maria-2Notice the wave breaking midway out in this photo.

Bahia Santa Maria-1Now sand is revealed all the way to that wave break.

This shallow area also creates some fun, small waves before the tide gets really low. Frank, Ron and I took advantage of the smooth floor and soft waves for SUP surfing and body surfing.  We, along with a few other HaHa cruisers, delayed our departure from Santa Maria to spend some extra time playing in the waves.

We really didn’t want to leave Bahia Santa Maria, but the HaHa had a schedule and we were expected at the next stop, Man-o-War Cove, just 27 nm down the peninsula.

I’m pretty certain TTR was the last boat to leave Santa Maria, because you know, we couldn’t stop surfing just to arrive early at the next stop! Still, we arrived and anchored in Man-o-War just prior to sunset and in time for the Great Raft-Up held behind the Grand Poobah’s boat s/v Profligate.

We quickly dropped anchor, gathered beverages and a sharable appetizer, launched Day Tripper and motored over to the Raft-Up.  We tied up to the gaggle of about 40 dinghies and enjoyed the musicians and dancers showing their talents on Profligate’s beamy transom. 

We hung out until the raft-up ended about and hour later. By then we had met our neighboring dinghies, shared food and swapped stories about our travels thus far.

As is the case with sailing, we are captives of the weather and although the HaHa had a schedule, mother nature decided to make us stand up and pay attention.  A tropical depression was developing south of Cabo San Lucas and the Grand Poobah was concerned for the safety of his 153 boats.

Many of the HaHa boats had made marina reservations in Cabo, but since we prefer anchorages, we did not have a reservation in a marina. The storm was forecast to hit Cabo from the south and the Cabo anchorage does not have any protection. We decided to stay in Magdalena Bay and see how the storm developed rather than face an undetermined storm in an open anchorage.

The majority of the fleet left but about 20 boats decided to stay in Man-o-War and see how the storm developed before leaving Magdalena Bay.  In the end, the Tropical Storm Raymond moved much more slowly than originally forecast and mostly dissipated before arriving in Cabo. However, the port captain did close the Cabo anchorage and we would have had to quickly sail north toward La Paz had we moved to Cabo as planned.

man o war-3Our gathering spot in Man-o-War Cove.

The 20 HaHa boats who remained in Man-o-War dubbed themselves the HaHa Hijos (HaHa children) and made the best of the situation.  There is one restaurant in Man-o-War and we used it as a gathering spot.  Some folks took pangas (small local fishing boats) to the nearby city of San Carlos where they shopped or dropped off crew who had schedules to meet.

We explored Man-o-War on foot and quickly covered the town.

man o war-4Ye old lighthouse is a bit worse for the wear.

man o warA hike to the cross.

man o war-5Man-o-War from the anchorage ~ notice the lack of green vegetation. 

man o war-2The exterior of the church.

man o war-1The interior…

People often ask what we do all day on a boat.  Our time in Magdalena Bay is a great example of how we spend idle time since Tropical Storm Raymond delayed our departure by five days.  The account of our days while watching Raymond will give you an idea…

IMG_8941Chart from “Charlie’s Charts Mexico,” 13th Edition.

Unlike the other HaHa Hijos boats, we decided to move TTR out of the relatively open Man-o-War anchorage and seek shelter from the anticipated winds in another part of Magdalena Bay.  After consulting the weather forecasts and scanning the charts, we moved TTR south and east toward “Sector Navy” or the Navy Base. 

Alcatraz-2Motoring past Sector Navy before we were chased out of the basin.

We poked TTR into the basin just south of the Naval Base and very soon three men in a Navy inflatable came roaring out to us and made sure we weren’t planning on anchoring in the basin.  We had considered it, but the guns they were carrying convinced us we weren’t welcome. 

So we motored TTR to a secluded spot away from the Navy Base where we would be protected from both wind and waves.

The rain set in and we spent the days playing games, evaluating the weather, observing nature, exploring nearby points and wondering how our friends were fairing in Cabo.

We ended up spending four nights in the SE part of Magdalena Bay and changed anchor spots three times in response to the revised forecasts.  These moves weren’t strictly necessary, but they allowed us to see other parts of the Bay.  And let’s face it, we weren’t very busy.

We kept in VHF contact with the other HaHa Hijos boats in the bay and, as we expected, the long fetch into Man-o-War anchorage allowed a good bit of chop to build up. Those sailors had a couple of unpleasant days/nights at anchor so we were very happy we had moved and had such a calm place to wait out Tropical Storm Raymond.

Alcatraz-7Ron made the official toast to Neptune.

Adult beverages were a bit low on TTR so we created a rum punch concoction that left much to be desired.  Since it wasn’t going to be drunk, we made an event out of a sacrificial offering to Neptune and asked for protection and safe travels.  (But I also made sure God knew it was all in fun!)

Alcatraz-6Hoping our offering would bring fair winds.

One day we dropped Day Tripper to explore our surroundings and went to visit the fishing village of Alcatraz.  Fortunately we were not incarcerated but were allowed to freely walk the streets.

Alcatraz is one of the most primitive towns we have explored.  Mindy’s Spanish was the best of the bunch and she spoke with a local lady to determine there is not a restaurant in Alcatraz.  There was a small tienda, the size of the cockpit on TTR or maybe smaller. We didn’t buy anything because we didn’t want to take goods the locals might really need.  Having struck out on a restaurant and tienda, we asked about a place to buy cervesas. 

AlcatrazI’m not sure what Jose was running for, but he probably won.

“Oh yes, go down this road until you get to the horse. Turn left at the horse and follow that road. Soon you will see the blue house where you can buy a beer.”

I have to admit, that is the first time a horse has been my cue to make a turn!

Alcatraz-1A successful quest for cervesas.

We found the beer which was sold from a man’s home.  It wasn’t particularly cold, but it was a novel place to buy a beer!

DSC05568A pretty place to sit and swap stories and plans.

Other things we did to keep busy while on the boat with almost nowhere to go? Sat on the trampoline and enjoyed our surroundings, took care of a bit of laundry, cleaned a bit, made some soft shackles, baked bread and generally enjoyed the company of good friends and a safe, beautiful place to wait out a storm.

Alcatraz-4The Baja wears green after it rains!

Remember the picture of those dry brown hills from earlier? Well look how green things became after the rain! The landscape popped into a lush green almost overnight after the rain of TS Raymond!

Alcatraz-5Sunset after the rain.

TTR and the other HaHa Hijos boats left for Cabo five days after the main HaHa fleet. Tropical Storm Raymond turned out to be all thread and no punch; which is exactly how I like my storms!  Cabo had a lot of rain and some wind.  The ports in Cabo and La Paz ware closed and apparently there was some sewage spillover (yuck) in Cabo, but no damage to speak of. 

Magdalena Bay had even fewer effects from the storm.  However, I think we made the prudent decision based on the weather information we had.  Raymond moved much more slowly than originally predicted and caused us to remain in Magdalena longer than expected.  If we had known Raymond would fizzle out, we would have made a run for La Paz or Jose del Cabo so that Mindy and Ron would have had more time in the Sea of Cortez before they returned to Guatemala.

But those thoughts are based on hindsight. I believe our cautious decision was a smart choice.

We arrived in Cabo around 4:30 am and spent the day re-provisioning, getting a sense of the touristy areas as well as parts that felt more authentically Mexican.

Cabo-2We found some very authentic food in a back street of Cabo.

We met up with the Grand Poobah aboard Profligate where the stragglers were given awards form completing the HaHa.  This is the first time the HaHa has faced a tropical storm so I’m sure it will be a memorable one for Richard.

IMG_8890HaHa Hijos group aboard Profligate.

We celebrated with others from the Haha, then happily returned to Ticket to Ride, ready to get a good night of sleep after our 4:30 arrival.

IMG_8894HaHa members celebrating their arrival in Cabo.

The end of the 2019 Baja HaHa concluded our second ever sailing rally. Our first was the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally aboard our first sailboat, Let It Be.  The two Rallies were incredibly different! 

IMG_8895Baja HaHa completion… not sure what our 3rd place was for.

The Sail to the Sun Rally is an eight week journey down the Intracoastal Waterway in the company of 20 boats and every night we stopped in the same marina or anchorage with the other boats.  None of the sailors knew each other before beginning the 2016 STTS Rally. In two months we had plenty of time to cement friendships with every boater on the trip.  After the STTS Rally ended, we continued to travel with about seven of those rally boats for several weeks. We traveled with Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kia for six months before Mauna Kia was tragically lost in Hurricane Irma because she had engine trouble and couldn’t escape that terrible storm.

By comparison, the Baja HaHa is a quick event of less than two weeks and included 153 boats this year! There are a few events before the start of the HaHa, a concluding event or two at the end and three stops along the journey.  Although I do not have the numbers, it seemed that many of the boats hailed from the same marina or sailing club and knew each other before beginning the HaHa.  The number of boats, the fact that many folks knew each other already and the short duration of the HaHa made it difficult to get to know many people during the HaHa.

For us, the true value of the HaHa is meeting sailors whose travel plans are similar to ours.  We think the HaHa is actually more valuable after its conclusion because as we come across other sailors who were part of the Haha, we have an “excuse” to introduce ourselves to them.  In fact, in less than a month since the conclusion of the HaHa, we have met people from a dozen HaHa boats in anchorages along the Sea of Cortez.

This is not to say one Rally is better than the other. We had and excellent time on both rallies but they felt radically different.

Both the Sail to the Sun Rally and the Baja HaHa Rally can be seen as a safety net for folks who don’t have a lot of offshore experience and the rally give them confidence to cut the lines and go.  The rallies also act as deadlines for some sailors who might continue to put off departure unless they had a specific date they had to meet.

We have only good things to say about the HaHa and our experience. We are very glad we participated and having Mindy and Ron share the HaHa made it even better.

CaboAdios Cabo

Mindy and Ron had very little time left in Mexico, so we yanked up the anchor after only 24 hours in Cabo and headed into the Sea of Cortez to give them a glimpse of the wonders it holds.

Cabo-1Fin whale?!

An hour into our trip we spotted a few whales! So hopefully the SOC will share some of its unique beauty before Mindy and Ron have to fly away to Guatemala where s/v Follow Me is patiently awaiting their return.

As always, thank you for reading this (rather long) post! We would love to hear your thoughts if you want to share them in comments. If you want to hear from us more often, please find our FB page.

 

 

Annapolis Sailboat Show 2017

Wow, how different attending the boat show is now than it was the first time we went in 2012.  My only real sailing experience in 2012 had been in February of that year when I completed several ASA classes.  We did not know anyone at the show, most of the booths represented things I knew nothing about and Frank had almost as much to learn as I did.

Things have certainly changed in the intervening five years; thus proving that you can teach old(er) dogs new tricks since now I understand a decent amount about the products available in those booths.

But more importantly, we have met so many people through our travels, this blog, the FB page and by participating in events we encounter in various anchorages, that our weekend was as much about meeting with friends as it was scoping out new products and information.

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STTS Rally Reunion (Photo by Ken Reynolds)

We had an absolute blast this year reconnecting with friends from the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally and all of us were very fortunate that Susan and Kevin of s/v Radiance hosted us all for several gatherings at their home.

Talk about fun! Get a group of sailors together, with plenty of good food and libations, then throw in shared travel for two months down the ICW and the conversations become lively and varied. We cannot thank Kevin and Susan enough for opening their home to the Ralliers and anyone else we knew in the area!

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STTS photo courtesy of Bill Ouellette.

I would love to share all the excellent pictures I took this trip, but I failed at photojournalism this weekend. I took all of ONE picture and that was of a huge motor yacht.  I wish I had been more cognizant of my photo opportunities because I would have at least taken a group picture of all the 2016 Sail to the Sun Ralliers who returned.  We ended up having 10 of the boats represented at dinner on Sunday night! WOW.  And that doesn’t include our fearless leader, Wally Moran.  We had better than half of the Sail to the Sun 2016 boats.  Impressive!!

Personally, I am not sure Wally was prepared for how well our group melded during our STTS Rally.  We were really fortunate to be part of the Rally and Frank and I are grateful to Wally for providing the venue for us to make such excellent friends.

Mindy and I last Halloween; could mean trouble. 

In addition to STTS folks, we met up with a few people we had met through our blog, some other sailors we met in our travels and our fellow Jabin’s Yacht Yard friends Mindy and Ron of s/v Follow Me.  LIB and Follow Me have been trying to catch up in various anchorages this year without success so we decided to make the meet up happen in our original stomping grounds.  Of course this meant we had to share drinks and dinner at Ebb Tide, a bar popular with the locals and within walking or biking distance of Jabin’s Yacht Yard.

This hurricane season has made us all very aware that things are replaceable and people matter most, which made our reunion with these friends just a bit sweeter.  Thank you dear friends for making time to visit with us and for sharing laughter and plans!

One unique and uplifting aspect of the boat show this year was the booths set up for hurricane relief to help the many islands and people so impacted by this horrible 2017 hurricane season. The Annapolis Boat Show established “Hands Across the Transom,” in an effort to encourage support of the Caribbean Islands.  Organizations participating in the Hands Across the Transom effort included Virgin BVI Community AppealPusser’s Hurricane Relief FundBVI Recovery FundVirgin Gorda & Bitter End Yacht Club Staff Irma Relief Fund, and Sister Season Fund. I overheard a lady selling #bvistrong t-shirts say they had sold over 450 shirts. GO PEOPLE!!

BVIW.642

You too can support BVI and have a shirt like hundreds of your friends!

We also spoke with a couple of the BVI charter groups and I was impressed with the attitudes of all of them.  The positive attitude and focus on rebuilding was clearly evident.  Of course there was also fatigue, but the overall impression was one of moving forward and not languishing in sadness.  We also heard that boat sales were brisk, so eventually the charter companies will be filled again with great boats available for vacations.

Both TMM and CYOA had several new sailboats launching from factories in France and those are expected to arrive very soon.  It sounded like the charter companies were targeting mid November or early December for sending out chartered boats. I was really happy to hear the date was that soon.

Frank and I did make some purchases during the boat show and per our usual modus operandi, did a LOT of research and information gathering.  I will dedicate a blog to what we learned and our purchases very soon.

As always, thank you for reading our blog. We love hearing from you so don’t be shy.  If you want information more often, take a look at our FB page.

 

 

 

Arial Photos of Places We’ve Seen

LIB

LIB stripped and prepared for Irma. (SUP was inside while away.)

Well, we are finally back on our boat in Puerto Rico and we are SO fortunate that we suffered NO damage from Hurricane Irma.  At the very last minute, this horrific storm decided to go just a bit north and the island of Puerto Rico avoided a direct hit.

In the face of this near miss, the folks here on PR have stepped up and contributed to the efforts to help neighboring islands which have been decimated.  There are people taking tangible supplies to PR, others have picked up people stranded on the island and brought them to PR and still others have taken friends or strangers into their boats and homes here in Puerto Rico.

On LIB, we have not contributed physically to the efforts, but we have tried to offer emotional and some financial support.  Our intention is to give trained personnel time to reinstate order, then actually go and help rebuild.  Admittedly Frank is much better with tools than I, but I have learned a lot since moving onto LIB and I am sure will be able to help in some way.

In the mean time, on our flight back to Puerto Rico, we saw from the air some of the islands we played on while cruising the Bahamas this year.  I have not always been a student of geography, but living on a boat has taught me a lot and it was fun to recognize the islands we had visited from an arial perspective.

Arial Pics

We spent several days anchored off Normans Cay.

Arial Pics-3

Enjoying the shallows while paddling to “The Pond” on Normans

We stopped on Normans twice this season; once alone and once with some of our Sail to the Sun Rally friends on board LIB with us.

Arial Pics-2

Captain found the soft, deserted beaches perfect for playing chase!

Arial Pics-1

The second great picture from the plane was of Cambridge and Compass Cays.  The cut between them is where we met up with s/v Radiance in an amazing feat of timing.  We had texted with Radiance crew, Susan and Kevin, who were heading toward the Exumas from Florida while we were returning to the Exumas from Eluethera.  Our plan was to anchor near Compass Cay and contact each other upon arrival, but just as we were getting close to the cut and were dousing our spinnaker, we spotted Radiance also approaching the cut! LIB fell into line right behind Radiance and we followed them into the anchorage!

P1010930

Susan demos the arduous skill of floating about on Compass Cay!

Cambridge Cay is where we first met Kristen and James of s/v Tatiana and Laurie and Chris of s/v Temerity.  This area is also the location of another Sail to the Sun meeting where about 10 of us did a float snorkel near the Rocky Dundas in water so clear that Tom and Louise on s/v Blue Lady appeared to be suspended in air in the picture below.

Arial Pics-4

Blue Lady lifts anchor near Cambridge Cay.

Traveling in a plane nearly 100 times faster than LIB sails, we quickly covered the area we sailed this season. But it was fun to look out the window and recall the islands we visited and see again the amazing blues unique to the Bahamas.

For now, we are keeping an eye on the weather here in Puerto Rico and hoping this nasty 2017 hurricane season ends without any more storms anywhere! We look forward to putting LIB back into working shape and once again exploring the Caribbean.

As always, thank you for stopping by our blog. We would love to hear from you. If you want to see what we are up to more often, please see our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.

Life Onboard; Comparing Year 1 and Year 2

Providenciales-2

The unparalleled waters of the Bahamas.

September marks the second completed year of full time living on our sailboat and it is amazing how different the two years have been.

Our first year we spent the first months working hard to get Let It Be ready for us to live on her.  Although we bought our boat new, we had several items we wanted to add to make life on our boat just a bit easier.

Probably the three biggest changes we made during the first year that have made LIB more functional for us were:

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Adding a Cruise RO Water Maker which frees us from looking for places to buy water as we travel.

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Adding these two upper windows to our salon which allow us to have airflow into the boat even if it rains outside.

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Our new cushions which are so much more comfortable than our original ones and add a very nice pop of color and individuality to LIB.

As far as our actual travel during the first season, we spent our time in the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean and loved moving from one country to the next.  The majority of our time was spent on anchor; we spent three nights in a dock on Antigua celebrating the New Year, then did not use a marina again until June.

We thoroughly enjoyed being on the hook, swimming and snorkeling almost every day and living that first season very much in tune with nature.

At the end of our first season, we left the Caribbean and sailed north all the way to Annapolis, MD to get in position for my personal “wish” which was to join a rally and work our way south through the Intracoastal Waterway.

Prior to the start of our second season aboard LIB, we made three additional changes to LIB that have made a significant difference for her in a positive way.

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We invested in brand new 3di sails by North Sails.  These sails are higher performance than our original sails and have gained us the ability to point higher and sail a bit faster. Definitely a win for LIB and us.

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We replaced all of our electronic equipment with B&G and we added radar to LIB.  We are very happy with our new equipment and find the autopilot to be excellent. The B&G equipment has some features that our previous system did not have and we find the whole system more user friendly.

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Our third change was that Frank and I completely revamped the rain water drainage on LIB by enlarging the drain holes and leading the captured water into the drain in the cockpit floor.  Prior to making these alterations, our cockpit floor would get wet when it rained because water ran off of the upstairs sun area and into the cockpit.  Since our modification, our cockpit is dry and usable even during heavy rains.

Our second season of cruising has been great but completely different from our first. We kicked it off with the 2016 Sail to the Sun Rally that started in Hampton, Virginia.  In the company of 18 other sailboats, we spent two months working our way south to Florida.  Nearly every evening we were in a different marina and we ate out more often than we ever did while living on land. The social life was amazing and the group of people were like minded and are sure to be friends for a very long time.

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A few STTS Ralliers waiting for a trolley tour.

We spent January through April in the Bahamas, including several stays in marinas.  Next we worked our way over to the Turks and Caicos, the Dominican Republic and then to Puerto Rico for this hurricane season.

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This marina in Samana, DR isn’t exactly a hardship!

While in the Turks and Caicos, we spent 95 percent of our time in a marina.  In the Dominican Republic we spent 100 percent of our time in marinas and now that we are settled in Puerto Rico for hurricane season, we are again in a marina.

As you can tell, our second season was all about marinas and much of it was about land activities.

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Kiting in Antigua.

Our first season we ate off of the boat rarely and focused on our water sports. Many hours and anchorages were all about kite boarding in beautiful places and having beaches all to ourselves.

This year we have made a ton of new boat friends, helped considerably by the Sail to the Sun Rally, and we have spent more time exploring on land.

In summary, I would say this year feels more like “land life” while living on a boat but our first year felt more like living on a sailboat.

If I had to choose if I prefer year one or two, I would not be able to do so. Year one I loved being in tune with the sunrises and sunsets while on anchor. I loved swimming to shore nearly every day and daily water activities.  I loved being in somewhat isolated places and feeling out of touch with U.S. news but being able to stay in contact with my family and friends.

This year I loved making so many new friends and reconnecting with friends in different anchorages or marinas. The convenience of restaurants and stores was welcome. It was really nice to be back in the U.S. with everything so familiar and accessible. But because we were in the States, it was easy to get caught up in the “real world” and that was not my favorite aspect of year two.

So now that we have experienced two very different years, what will we do for the upcoming season?

In November, we are once again setting off toward the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. But this year we will also jump over to the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) and spend time there before the hurricane season of 2018 begins.

My hope is that this season we can somehow manage to blend our last two seasons.  Perhaps we will devise an itinerary that includes remote anchorages intermingled with some more developed areas with conveniences we sometimes crave (think grocery stores with our favorite veggies and fruits).

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It was a great surprise when Starry Horizons was nearby!

And of course, we hope to reconnect with sailing friends because it is a little thrill to drop anchor and suddenly realize that a nearby boat is a friend we didn’t know was in the area.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. We love hearing your comments. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44

Woof! Hey Y’all, It’s Me, Captain.

Well I have not had a single minute to spend writing a post on this blog. It has been forever since mom let me sit down and paw out a few words!

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I’m listening to something mom’s telling me.

I have been extremely busy here on LIB.  When I first became a boat dog, I was unaware of how important it is to look INTO the water and not just monitor the land. Wow, since I figured that out, I realized I have a lot of territory to patrol to ensure my humans are safe.

But just like on land, my humans don’t always understand why I am barking and sometimes I get in trouble because their noses are really weak and they just don’t smell the things I do.

The best example is the dolphins I talked about last time.  While we were on that long Intracoastal Waterway trip (2016 Sail to the Sun Rally), there were dolphins galore! But my humans were oblivious until they actually broke the surface of the water…duh!

Not me! I knew they were there and I barked and barked to make sure those dolphins didn’t get too close to my boat. I was so good at spotting those dolphins that other people in the Sail to the Sun Rally would take notice when I barked.  Lots of times somebody would come by the boat and thank me for pointing out the dolphins for them.  Big tail wag for that!

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Trying to catch those dolphins.

One time there were so many dolphins at No Name Harbor in Florida, that MG let me jump in the water and herd them! I worked and worked trying to coral those things, but I never could gather them all together.

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Frank let me rest between swims.

Frank finally came out on a paddle board to let me rest for a few minutes.  I did not want to give up trying to make the dolphins behave, but my humans said I had to stop…. I was really tired and a little sad I couldn’t coral the dolphins.  But it was still a lot of fun trying and I think mom and dad were proud of me! And later people from boats we didn’t even know came over to tell us they had fun watching me.  More tail wags for me!

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A nice walk on Conception Island

I liked the ICW but it’s really good to get back to the beaches again.  We spent January through March in the Bahamas where the water was clear and blue and it’s really easy to see whatever swims under our boat.  It sure is nice to be able to roll in the sand and run on the beaches again.

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Me snuggling down into the cool sand for a rest.

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Mom calls this a refrigerator but I call it a snack drawer!

One thing is hard about living on this boat…. mom keeps my food in this drawer that is right at my level.  Every time she opens that drawer wonderful things happen.  First off, the drawer is cold and cool air seeps out when it is opened.  Secondly, there are excellent smells in that drawer; not the kind you want to roll in but the kind you want to eat! And thirdly, my food is right there and I could just reach in and feed myself!

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Don’t tell, I get in trouble if I put my nose in here!

Anyway, every time mom or dad open that drawer, I think they should feed me or at least give me a snack. But nope, humans can be heartless! I don’t get a treat every time they go into the cold drawer ~  in fact, mom and dad eat a lot more out of that drawer than I do!

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Mom and I climbed out on this rock.

This year we have been traveling with other boats and that is fun. We don’t always stay with the same boats but lots of people come over to visit me.  It’s sad because none of the other boats have dogs to give them licks and keep them safe.  But the good thing is I get plenty of extra snuggles and sometimes the visitors even bring me treats! Pretty much everybody thinks I’m a really great dog (I hear them tell MG and Frank) and that makes me feel really happy.

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Chillin’ at a concert in George Town – it was loud!

Don’t worry that I’m getting fat with those extra snuggles and treats.  I still get plenty of exercise riding in the dinghy and on the paddle board; chasing birds on the beach and flies off the boat; and generally swimming and hiking with my humans.

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See how easy it is to see into the water!

I hope you like the pictures I put in here so you can see what I’ve been doing.

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I’m helping dad keep an eye out for coral heads in our way.

All in all, life on Let It Be is really good….. but I still won’t use that silly, fake grass mom puts on the back deck unless it’s an emergency!  Like that cheap plastic stuff is any kind of replacement for land!  Sheesh, I can’t let them get out of the habit of taking me to shore. There are far too many good sniffs there and I don’t want to give that up!

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I’m the dinghy lookout when we explore.

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At the end of the day I snuggle with my dinosaur while mom cooks.

Oh, hey!…. I just heard my drawer open…. Gotta run!

Oh yeah, remember to come say hi and give me some snuggles if you see us somewhere.  Woof woof for now!

Sail to the Sun Rally Reunion on Let It Be

Wow! Who knew a week could pass so quickly? We had the pleasure of having two couples from our Sail to the Sun Rally come and stay with us on LIB for a week.  And several other boats from the Rally made the effort to come and join us in various anchorages.  The result was a week of fun, laughter and adventures with a pretty large number of people.

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Waiting for guests in Staniel Cay.

We sailed LIB to Staniel Cay, where Brad and Terrie of s/v Reflection and Steve and Janine of s/v Second Wind flew into the Exumas.  We had rented a golf cart, so on arrival day the six of us tooled around in a golf cart to explore the island and introduced the newcomers to “island shopping” at the local groceries.  We had already provisioned for the week, but part of the experience of the boat life is poking about in local markets.

The wind was pretty strong so we decided to explore near Staniel for a day or two, but the wind could not intimidate our intrepid Rally friends. Tom and Louise of Blue Lady, Tina and Bill of Our Log and Laurie and Ken of Mauna Kea fought the wind and arrived in Staniel to reunite with our guests.

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Staniel Cay Yacht Club.

Staniel Cay Yacht Club was our restaurant of choice for our first reunion night. We figured we should go to the Yacht Club since this would probably be one of the only places during the week that had a bar or restaurant. The food was good and the company was even better.

Our days were filled with snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking and general poking around the islands, followed by dinner aboard LIB most nights for whichever Rally boats were nearby. As is usual with boaters, every boat contributed to the dinners so we were not at all burdened with feeding everyone.

Instead of itemizing our itinerary, here are a bunch of pictures from our week.  A special thank you to Tom and Steve and Brad for contributing photographs.  I wasn’t very good about photo documenting so I really appreciate the use of their shots!

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Frank swimming out of the James Bond famed Thunder Ball Cave.

Thunder Ball Cave was our first snorkel site right by Staniel.  We enjoyed poking about in the cave, though it was pretty crowded when we first arrived.  Several of the guys were dropped off on one side of the cave and they drift snorkeled through the cave allowing the current to propel them along.

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Light from the hole in the cave ceiling pierces the water.

Susan and Kevin, plus Sue’s brother, Brian, of s/v Radiance, made a fast trek north from George Town to meet the group at Compass Cay. Susan and I were adamant that our guests had to experience the Bubbly Bath since we had had such a great time on our previous visit.

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We dinghied to a beach on Compass Cay and walked about half a mile to the Bubbly Bath. As you can see, the scenery and the path were not too strenuous and even if they had been, the effort was worth it to reach the pool.

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Thanks for this areal view, Steve.

Steve climbed up the hillside for a look from above and took this picture.  On the left you can see where the water breaches the rocks and feeds the Bubbly Bath.  At the back of the picture, behind where we are standing, is the shallow inlet that we walked across to get to this spot.

Although the weather was not warm, the clarity and color of the water begs for swimming and we obliged often.  We moved LIB over toward O’Brian’s Cay where the Aquarium awaited.

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Frank and Brad diving at the Aquarium.

Rather than simply snorkel the Aquarium, Tom, Steve, Brad and Frank pulled out diving gear and dove the site.  I think this was the first time Tom was able to use his new gear and it was the first time in quite a few years that Steve had been for a dive.  It was an excellent place to explore without much current to fight.

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Here fishy, fishy…

The ladies snorkeled the Aquarium and Tom was able to get some great photos from the bottom while he was diving. As you can see, the fish are very friendly!

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The picture isn’t great, but the gathering was fun!

While traveling the ICW with our Rally group, I was surprised to learn how many of the ladies did not know how to drive a dinghy or at least were not comfortable starting one.  So one afternoon Terrie, Janine, Louise and I went out in Day Tripper for a driving lesson.  These ladies were excellent drivers and only needed a little confidence boost.  Within an hour all of them were able to start the dinghy, move forward or backwards, get the dinghy on a plain, rescue a fallen object and dock the dinghy….. We all learned some things and now they can confidently get themselves from boat to shore and back again.  This might prove to be a retail boost for local economies!

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We had the chance to fly the big red asymetric spinnaker which proved very relaxing.

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Terrie and Brad found some quiet space on the trampoline but Captain wanted in on it.

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We had to visit the crescent anchorage at Warderick Wells!

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The full moon brought a certain magic to the scene.

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Blue Lady waving goodbye after our drift snorkel through Conch Cut.

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Steve gives knot tying lessons as we travel.

Spending the week with four guests who are sailors was a first for me.  Because they are all familiar with the limitations and compromises of living on a boat, they were exceptionally easy to have on board.  Additionally, although they own monohulls rather than catamarans, they have more sailing experience than I do and they jumped right into the line work, helming and anchoring.  As a result, I had a pretty leisurely week!

A special thank you to s/v Blue Lady, s/v Mauna Kea, s/v Our Log and s/v Radiance for making the time in your schedules to make the “reunion” happen.  I know Brad, Terrie, Steve and Janine had a much richer experience because you joined us!

George Town Races

We left Cambridge Cay with the intention of going to Farmers Cay before continuing to George Town on Great Exuma.  However, once we exited Conch Cut and were on the eastern side of the islands, we had a perfect day for sailing and we just could not get ourselves to stop at Farmers.  We had a beam reach and the islands to our west reduced the waves so we clipped along at 8 knots and traveled over 70 miles under main and jib.

George Town is cruisers central in the Bahamas and our first look was startling because of the number of sailboats and cruising boats anchored in the harbors.  This was by far the largest gathering of cruisers we have ever encountered!

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Typical number of dinghies anytime near Chat n Chill on Stocking Island

We arrived in Elizabeth Harbor, Great Exuma late in the afternoon and chose to find a protected spot because a few windy days were predicted.

We settled in an area toward the southwest part of Elizabeth Harbor called Red Shanks.  It was a nice quiet area to ride out the wind, but we knew we wanted to move closer to where all the activity would happen.

Elizabeth Harbor is very large with several areas for anchoring.  George Town is where the facilities are like grocery stores, fuel, restaurants, etc.  However, this visit was all about the 37th Annual George Town Cruisers Regatta and Festival and many of the daily activities would be across the harbor from George Town on Stocking Island.

When the wind calmed a bit, we moved Let It Be across the harbor to a spot right off of Volleyball Beach on Stocking Island.  This was the perfect spot for us because we were a short dinghy ride from many daily activities.

The GT Cruisers Regatta has far too many activities to list them all, so if you are interested in seeing more detail, look them up on FB: George Town Cruising Regatta 2017

Frank and I tend to be more about ‘doing’ than ‘watching’ so we signed up for many activities.  In fact, we were so busy I hardly had time to take pictures.

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Yoga was a fabulous way to start our morning on Volleyball Beach.

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Nearly every afternoon there were pick up volleyball games that we joined often.  Sometime there were 9 people per side and other times we only had four.  It just depended on who wanted to play.  The games were super fun with a variety of skill levels.  We found volleyball to be one of the best ways to meet new people and get a little exercise in the process.

Frank seemed to think that the more sand he got on himself during volleyball, the better and I think he brought home a fair amount of the beach each afternoon. I wish I had a picture of that!

Tina and Bill of s/v Our Log joined us for the Poker Run.  The weather was a little rough with some wind and squalls, but we managed to have a great time in spite of it.

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The wide, open harbor was rough in windy conditions.

  We traveled by dinghy across Elizabeth Harbor to six restaurants and at each location we chose a playing card.  The final stop was back on Stocking Island at Lumina Point where we picked up our final card.

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Bill, Tina and Frank look pretty serious about choosing a card.

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A measly two pair, but we’re still smiling!

Our luck at pulling good cards didn’t exist and we ended up with only two pair.  But we enjoyed seeing all of the restaurant/bars and sampling their food and drinks, and we couldn’t have asked for better teammates than Bill and Tina.  We also met some great people, especially Jane and Kevin of s/v Libeccio. 

Our next big event was the Coconut Challenge which we did with s/v Tatiana.  YEP!  James and Kristen were back with us again and we had more laughs than should be allowed doing this crazy event. The Coconut Challenge had three parts:

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Part 1. Four people in life jackets in a dinghy without a motor.  Each person has a swim fin to use to propel the dinghy.  1,000 coconuts were released and each dinghy tried to collect as many coconuts as possible without leaving the dinghy.  

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Many teams competed in the challenge.  

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James and Frank catch while Kristen tosses coconuts.

Part 2.  One person stands with his back to two other team mates who are holding a garage bag.  The thrower tosses coconuts over her head and the catchers catch the coconuts in the bag.  

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Who gets the most style points?

Part 3. Each teammate has one coconut and the team has 5 seconds to toss the coconuts over a net and into scoring circles in the sand.

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Overall we earned 2nd place in the Coconut Challenge!!

Our next event was a dinghy race in which you had to create a sail and race straight downwind.  Frank had the great idea of flying one of his kite board kites as our sail.  After some convincing, the judge did allow us to enter the race but we had to start a little distance from the other racers as a safety precaution.

We started off great and it looked like we would easily WIN the race.  But we quickly outran the kite which subsequently lost all power and fell from the sky!  Sadly we were unable to recover and lost the race.  Happily, no one was injured by the crazy kite and the kite lines didn’t get entangled in anything.

Next up on our schedule was the SUP race.  Frank took first place in the men’s division and I paddled my way into second for the ladies. 

There was a big variety show put on at a local park that included acts by cruisers and locals.  Most of the performances were singers with musicians.  Several dances were performed by children and there was even a poetry reading.  Quite a variety of talent.

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Frank prepares for the costume party. 

Frank pulled out his shark costume from Halloween and entered the costume contest which had a theme of Gilligan’s Island or a Favorite Castaway.  Although he was very energetic and into his character, he didn’t win any prizes.

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Pretty creative costumes.

The most exciting events for us were the sailboat races! We decided to enter LIB in the In Harbor Race as well as the Around the Island Race.  Of course we invited friends to join us as crew! And since most of us were graduates of the Sail to the Sun Rally 2016, we wore our t-shirts!

The In Harbor Race was my favorite because it was fairly short and pretty exciting.  Our crew included Ken and Laurie from Mauna Kea, Kevin and Susan from Radiance, Tina and Bill from Our Log and James and Kristen from Tatiana.

The morning of the race dawn revealed a perfect day for sailing.  Frank and I scurried about making sure LIB was ready and things were in order.  James and Kristen arrived and we fired up the engines, except our starboard engine would not start! It didn’t even turn over.  After a bit of diagnosing (and perhaps a swear word or two) we contact Bill, Mr. Mechanic Extraordinaire!  He zipped over to LIB and bypassed the ECU to get our engine started.  Phew, we were ok and off to the races!! 

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James directs and we hop to!

James was our tactician for the day and Frank had prepared a job list so everyone could participate in the race.  Every one of the crew had only sailed on monohulls so we had to do some practicing before the race began.

I will admit, our tacks were a little rough at first!  But we persevered and by race time, we were ready!  This is the first time I have ever raced a sailboat and it was an adrenalin rush.  I was at the helm and Frank oversaw all line work while James gave instructions.

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Our imitation of wild action shots!

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LIB from a competitors view.

We gave it our all and managed to earn third place.  Ok, there were only four boats in our class, but still we earned a flag!!

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Tina and Bill ready to add a preventer when we flew wing on wing.

The around the island race included the same crew with the addition of Brian from Radiance.  Once again James was the tactician, I was at the helm and Frank was overseeing lines.  Ken, from s/v Mauna Kea, put it best in a FB post:

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We must be flying – look at our windswept hair!

“Let It Be placed another 3rd! It was a great race, after the first mark we were second. Shortly after that we were in first and then it all slipped away.  We had victory in our hands and then someone offered drinks and snacks.”

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Sharing snacks and laughs post race.

Haha, I’m not sure that was the reason we lost, but it makes a good story.  Our monohull sailors got to see LIB in her worst sailing position – upwind.  But since we were all comfortable while slogging into it and some one (ahem, Brian) even managed to nap ~ it wasn’t a bad day at all.

At the end of the first day, s/v Tatiana and LIB sported the same winning flags.

After many afternoons of practice, Frank and I chose to enter the Fun Volleyball event.  We even had to get “rated” by the organizer.  Unfortunately, the weather turned and we had to depart George Town earlier than anticipated, so we had to cancel our spots. 

We left George Town on Friday so we could make it to the western side of the Exumas before the next weather front arrived.  So today we are anchored off of Little Farmers Cay in relative comfort even though the winds are kicking up close to 30 knots.  These winds are expected to stay with us for a few more days, but we will make our way toward Staniel Cay tomorrow as some friends arrive on Tuesday.

Some folks have asked me to give them my thoughts on George Town because it is well known as a cruisers hang out.  I have to admit we had a blast there but I don’t know if that is because the Regatta/Festival was in full swing.  Frank and I plan on stopping back in George Town when we move south again toward Long Island.  It will be interesting to see what George Town is like when it has it’s “usual” number of boats. 

Thanks for stopping by and reading this very long post!

Rally Termination… Goodbye (Temporarily) to Friends

Wow, it is hard to believe that our Rally has concluded.  We have traveled more than 1100 miles with the 19 boats in the Sail to the Sun 2016 Rally and it has been a fabulous experience.  Our leader, Wally Moran, has a ton of experience on the ICW and did a great job of balancing a schedule/plan with the flexibility required for sailor types.

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Wally and his faithful pup, Aduana.

The Rally officially ended shortly after leaving Vero Beach.  From Vero we headed to Peck Lake which is a small anchorage with a spit of sand that connects via a short path to the Atlantic Ocean.  We saw solid evidence of just how far the Ocean reaches because of the green buoy from the Bahamas that had washed up on this shore.  We spent a pleasant afternoon walking the Atlantic side beach, collecting shells and simply enjoying the empty ocean front.

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King of the buoy?

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Rally friends showing this buoy who is boss.

I cannot possibly complete our posts about the ICW without including a couple more bridge pictures.  Here are two of my favorites from our last few days on the ICW….

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This should be called the Disney Castle Bridge, don’t you think?

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The lines of this bridge were sleek and modern.

Moving down the Florida ICW was one monied area after another.  The houses and yachts were so large it was a little ridiculous.  Even though some of the homes were stunningly pretty, all I kept thinking was that I was very glad I didn’t have to maintain any of them.

fl-6The lighting is poor but you get an idea about the homes.

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fl-3  I did appreciate the Christmas spirit on this little abode.

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As I said, there were some rather large yachts as well…. I kept thinking of the credit card ad asking, “What’s in your wallet.”  But instead I would ask, “What’s in your back yard?”

Enough of the money stuff….

Perhaps the most unique anchorage we stopped in was Boca Raton.  There is just a tiny bump out of the ICW in Boca where you can anchor.  You must be cautious because it is extremely shallow in the middle.  Gently nudging our way into the area allowed us to find a spot to drop anchor and enjoy a beautiful evening.  The surrounding area was a mixture of beautiful homes and sky-rises.

fl-5Our view during dinner.

The evening was cool, quiet and calm and Frank and I relished a relaxed dinner in the cockpit.  LIB gently pivoted on her anchor and gave us a changing view as we discussed the trip we were finishing and our plans for having the mast returned to our boat.

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Enjoying the view and our Christmas lights while reading my Kindle.

Our final Rally stop was at Dinner Key in Miami.  While the other Rally boats awaited bridge openings, we motored ahead and only waited on openings if the bridge was less 16 feet.  fl-8Celebratory drinks in Dinner Key

Once LIB was safely tied up we poured a drink and sat in the cockpit while we waited for the rest of the group to arrive.

Wally had planned a final dinner in Dinner Key to mark the end of the Rally.  This gave us a chance to compare plans with the others and discuss weather windows.  Many of the Ralliers will head to the Bahamas and we are very glad to know we will reunite with several of our friends in the near future.

Wally put a lot of thought and effort into our final dinner including awarding “certificates” for some of us.  Not at all surprising was that Frank received an award in recognition of his willingness to dive any Rally boat to check for crab pots, grounding damage, zinc levels, etc.

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Frank’s certificate commemorating at least four dives during the Rally.

I, however, was surprised, and secretly pleased, to receive an award of my own. I might not be recognized for important jobs like Frank, but I am a very positive person and I have the award to prove it. 😉

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Nice guys (girls) don’t always finish last.

Frank and I are very glad we joined the Sail to the Sun 2016 Rally and highly recommend it to others considering the trek.  We think the ICW would have been a little tiring if we had been on our own.  Having other sailors to share the experience and socialize with was a huge benefit.  We enjoyed sharing the navigation and history of the ICW as well as the adventures and mishaps with so many like minded people.  It was nice to have Wally’s guidance and experience and have other boaters to discuss ideas for future destinations.

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The sun sets on the Sail to the Sun 2016 Rally

It is especially nice to know we have 19 other boats we now call our friends and that we already have friends in future anchorages.

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Full moon rising at Dinner Key, Miami

This is our concluding post about the ICW Rally.  I hope you have enjoyed seeing a few of the places we passed during this trip.  Have you been inspired to cruise the ICW or are you more interested in island hopping?  I would love to know…

Away We Go ~ ICW Week One

Nearly 2 1/2 years ago, I mentioned to Frank that I really wanted to join the Snowbird Rally which traveled from the Chesapeake to Miami down the ICW.  Ironically, one June evening this summer, while in the Bahamas, we introduced ourselves to a fellow boater who is the administrator for several FB pages; Wally Moran.  Turns out, at one time Wally was the coordinator for the Snowbird Rally and he was planning his own rally down the ICW this year.  We talked with Wally for a bit and he sent us information about Sail to the Sun 2016 ~ his ICW rally.

That chance meeting put us on the path we are now taking ~ a trip down the ICW in the company of 20 other boats, led by Wally. 

Our two month trip from Hampton, VA to Miami, FL will cover more than 1,000 miles of inland travel through backwood, deserted rivers and fast paced, modern coastal cities.  We will navigate narrow cuts dug years ago to connect rivers and we will traverse large open sounds that will make us miss our sails.

MISS OUR SAILS?!  Yep.  My incredibly smart husband made arrangements to have our mast removed and shipped to Miami!  A sailboat with a high mast like ours, usually has to exit the ICW and go out into the Atlantic Ocean to avoid fixed bridges that are too low for the mast to clear.  Without the mast, LIB’s maximum height has gone from 68 feet to 14 feet.

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No mast means no stress on the ICW

As a result we clear ALL of the bridges! Plus there are several bridges that open but the closed clearance is high enough for us to pass without waiting for the bridge opening.

Trust me when I tell you this GREATLY reduces the stress of traveling the ICW.  Already a few boats in our rally have had to remove their antennae and wind vanes.  Two other boats had to weight their boats to heel as they passed under a fixed bridge so they could get the mast through. 

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Thank you to Brad and Terrie for the picture.

Brad and Ken are hanging off of the boom to tilt s/v Reflections.  Additional people were recruited to weigh the boat before she was heeled enough to fit under the fixed bridge!  

I salute their ingenuity but I do not envy them the stress of watching their masts clear bridges by mere inches!  Plus that trick obviously only works with a monohull so LIB doesn’t qualify.

Hurricane Matthew’s pounding of the east coast created some high water, a lot of debris and unknown shoaling changes to the Dismal Swamp which was scheduled to be our entrance to the ICW. 

Caution dictated skipping the Dismal Swamp and heading to the Virginia Cut as our entrance to the ICW. I am disappointed that we skipped the Swamp because of it’s age and history, but the Virginia Cut is an easier and wider passage.

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Heading toward our first railroad bridge.

Day one we crossed the Newport News Channel which is a huge military area and a large commercial shipping area plus the hub of several channels for recreational boaters. In land terms, the Newport News Channel is like a highway interchange, but there are few lane markers and overtaking vessels hail you on the VHF when they are about to pass.  Dallas folks, think of this as the I635 of boating ~ without brakes. 

Just after leaving that channel, we approached our first lock!  Most of us in the rally had never been through a lock so we were all inexperienced. But the lock tenders were patient and efficient, so everything went well.

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Boats are tied to both sides of the lock.

EXCEPT, the second we were tied up to the wall, Captain jumped off the boat and made use of the lush green grass across the concrete barrier.  I wish I could have snapped a picture, but I was busy tending lines.  I don’t think the lock workers were very pleased with Captain, but she certainly felt much better!  Once she was back on board we could laugh about our very independent dog.

Rather than bore you with a detailed account of each day, I expect the documentation of our ICW trip will be mostly photographs.  The scope of the scenes will be difficult to capture, but I hope to give you a glimpse of the areas we see. 

If there is something you think we should watch for on our trip or some place you loved when you traveled here, please share in the comments so we can try to see it!

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Leaving the Carrituck Sound.

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Waiting on a very low bridge to open.

On the third day, our group was heading across the Albemarle Sound and up to Elizabeth City, but because the anticipated weather showed we would be motoring across the Albemarle in high winds, we chose to skip Elizabeth City and spend a few nights on our own schedule.  I think after so many months in the dock, we wanted to anchor out and hang on our hook for a few nights.

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The only structures were fishing camps built on stilts in the water.

After reading about the 150,000 acre Alligator River Wildlife Refuge across the Albemarle Sound, we aimed our bow in that direction.  Apparently the red wolf in the wild became extinct, so in 1987 a pair of red wolves from a zoo was reintroduced to this Refuge because the environment is perfect for them.  Well over 60 pups have been born in the wild since 1987 and some nights a series of howls can be heard from the pack.  We didn’t have the pleasure of hearing the wolves, but we still enjoyed the natural beauty of the Little Alligator River.

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Fog the morning we awakened on the Little Alligator River.

The next morning we were surrounded by fog and the visibility was minimal.  This was the perfect excuse to spend a leisurely morning on LIB and watch the day develop.

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Loaded up Day Tripper for a trip to shore.

The fog burned away to reveal a spectacular day, so a trip to shore and a bike ride along the levy was in order.  Cappy was super happy to run, sniff and explore while Frank and I tootled along at a casual pace.

The next night we anchored in the Alligator River.  We found another quiet bend in a finger off the main river and dropped the anchor.  Once again we awakened in a cloud!

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This time we lifted anchor and motored on as soon as we had reasonable visibility.  The patterns the clouds created on the gray water were beautiful.

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As we motored toward the Alligator/Pungo River canal, the clouds and landscape made me think of Jurassic Park.  I kept waiting for a T-Rex to lift its’ head among the trees.

Once past the Alligator/Pungo Canal, we will reconnect with Rally and hear all about the stops we missed.

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